Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd drifts through northern Texas, performing live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world-of the Irish pouring into New York City, of the railroad driving into the new state of Nebraska. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain once made his living as a printer, until the War Between the States took his press and everything with it. Now, at seventy-one, he enjoys the freedom of the road.
At a stop in Wichita Falls, Captain Kidd is offered an astonishing $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives near San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders viciously killed Johanna Leonberger's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently recovered by the U.S. Army, the inconsolable ten-year-old with blue eyes and hair the color of maple sugar has once again been torn away from the only home and family she knows. The captain's sense of duty and compassion propels him to accept, though he knows the journey will be difficult.
Winding through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain, the four-hundred-mile odyssey south proves dangerous. A corrupt Reconstruction government runs the state government, and anarchy and lawlessness has taken hold. The captain must watch for thieves, Comanche and Kiowa, and the federal army-and corral the wild Johanna, who has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, and refuses to act "civilized." Yet as the miles pass, the wary Johanna slowly draws closer to the man she calls Kep-dun, and the two lonely survivors forge a tender bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
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